Our fifth blog gives a real insight into the experiences and conversations in and around the summit. It is written by the Lead Delegate in the UK delegation to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit; Glynn Pegler, who is CEO of Culture Group, a communications company he founded when he was 15 and he is the co-founder of Young Brits Network.
--- FROM ONE CULTURE TO ANOTHER ---
Arriving in Mexico City was an experience from the outset. "There's 'general time' and then there's 'Mexican time'." - was the opening phrase our taxi driver greeted us with. What he meant by this was that once you're in the Mexican traffic, you're at the mercy of a road system where a journey that would normally be a 20 minutes can easily take up to 4 hours.
Symptomatic, perhaps, of a city thats' the world's second largest with some 21 million inhabitants. There are some 400 more this week, as entrepreneurs from around the world, myself included, descend on the city as part of the planning for the G20 Mexico Summit.
I am here to learn. To share best practice. To find out what best practice is. To relate the experiences of entrepreneurs in the UK with those from the rest of the globe and to try to make sense of the regulatory and economic differences to create a set of recommendations that will form a communique presented to the G20 leaders to inform their discussions. Its an incredible opportunity to be a part of shaping a new global culture. The learning began the moment I stepped off the 11 hour flight.
Passing through inner-city Mexico lived up to some stereotypes. Gun-fire, police chases and chaos a-plenty. But seeing past that initial commotion - which is limited to certain areas and is in every other major city in the world - I was given the warmest of welcomes as Paco, Federico and Carlos, our chaperones for the trip, greeted us in the foyer of our hotel with a level of pride for their country that was infectious.
Respectively they are each fantastic examples of young entrepreneurial minds struggling with a lack of support around them. Paco, 26, is establishing his own English Language School and its a competitive market. His biggest challenge is how to stand out amongst the competition and to do this with no guidance provided. Federico, 23, is studying Agriculture and wants to improve people's lives in some way through contributing to enhancing the country's infrastructure. Carlos, 20, is studying entrepreneurship at Tec Santa Fe, the venue for some of our G20 discussions, and has aspirations to design user experience interfaces for video games. In the meantime he's not settling for academia on its own and is taking on a frozen yoghurt franchise to launch in Mexico City with niche products for the diabetic market.
The reason this entrepreneurs' summit works and is so successful is that no matter where you are in the world, all entrepreneurs encounter the same challenges; albeit to varying degrees. Each year there are new initiatives to learn from, enhance and to develop or scrap. The daily agendas at these summits are always intense. 6:00am starts and 11:00pm finishes. So whenever there's a bit of downtime its an opportunity to jump at the chance to learn more about a different culture. Federico, Paco and Carlos become our tour guides and their passion for showing us all things Mexican is unwavering. Its time to see some of the city by gondola, or trajinera as they are known. A major tourist experience, yes, but one that was an unmissable opportunity to bond with others on the trip and learn more about what they want to achieve and the challenges they face.
It turned into a tequila lunch; with a supporting role from some rice, beef and tacos as we were serenaded by a traditional Mexican band Mariachi. If this had been al-fresco dining in the UK it would be the sort of experience where you'd have politely told them to go away. Here, it was the perfect accompaniment. Lunch was held huddled round a table on the tin roof-covered gondola, in the company of Russians, Australians, Mexicans, Indians and South Africans, with businesses ranging from software development, to construction of mining communities. International business opportunities were soon being instigated as different parties around the table with enterprises that on first glance seemed completely unrelated, found ways to work together to support supply chains and compliment each others work. If only Governments could work like that? But then, that's what the G20 entrepreneurs' summit is here to assist. The local tradespeople were themselves as opportunistic as they were entrepreneurial - silver and fabric merchants clambering aboard our gondola and practising their sales patter..
One or two gondola collisions and a few beers later (much of the tequila had been drunk, straight, in half-pint measures by the lead singer of the Mariachi) and we were back on dry land and witnessing a ceremonial display of 5 mexicans on a pole some 50 feet into the sky, with 4 of them hanging precariously by their feet and spinning around the pole. As you do.
Having paid to use a toilet, we returned to the taxi area, where the shock of seeing the same convoy of cabs waiting to pick us up as had dropped us off some hours earlier started to provide an indication of the competitiveness of some parts of this economy. Our trade with them was modest yet significant enough that they were prepared to be at our service all day so as not to lose out to other drivers. In the UK they would have earnt far more by filling their downtime in between with other jobs, but here, that isn't always possible.
Then it was onto the heart of the city to Coyoacan, a hangout for young creatives. We were lucky enough to witness a wedding taking place on the steps of Coyoacan Church and then visited a patisserie which was the epitome of customer servicing excellence. A turnstile on the way in, shelves of beautifully laid out cakes and breads from floor to ceiling; a central servicing area to distribute small trays and tongs for self service; a packaging area for your selection when you'd made it; a ticket area to issue you with a price and receipt before you reached a till, and finally a till-point area in the form of a pay booth, before exiting via another turnstile which counted you out. The owners knew how many people passed through their doors each day, how long they spent in the shop, maximised their display space to tempt you with as many things as possible, minimised their overheads by implementing self service, and encouraged you to buy by having the barrier of a turnstile that you needed to go via the till-point to exit via. Smart stuff.
That anecdote of my hanging around in bakeries aside, my first day in Mexico was a fascinating insight into another economy. Being shown around by natives who are themselves entrepreneurs was a factor that acutely enhanced the observations above and meant that the conversations throughout the day were filled with peer to peer discussions of how we could support each other.
In the evening, it was onto the official reception party for the international delegations, being held at the Royal Palace of Chapultepec. Here, it was time for entrepreneurs to mingle with heads of governments and policy makers from around the world as I found myself engaged in conversations on promoting youth enterprise in South Africa, followed by one with the Global Head of Entrepreneurship from Ernst and Young about what incentives could I suggest be put in place to encourage greater numbers of entrepreneurs to start-up.
The fact remains, entrepreneurship is the single biggest driver of job creation in the worldwide economy and the entrepreneurship summit ahead of the G20 leaders gathering is a powerful way to influence world policy and create significant social change.
The Mexican's may need to work on their tourism stap-line though. Over dinner we were told "For every 100 people who come to Mexico, 98 come back." Presumably they mean for a second visit. I know I will be.
Follow Glynn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GlynnPegler
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